Codependency is an unhealthy reliance on another person, often characterised by focusing on their needs at the expense of your own interests and developing self-esteem that strongly depends on this particular relationship.
Although codependency may occur in any relationship, the most common causes are usually family-related, and the presence of alcohol issues here may significantly worsen the situation. For example, these are relationships between alcoholic parents and their children or an alcoholic spouse and their sober partner.
The main risk of codependency in a relationship with a person who struggles with alcohol addiction is that there is a strong likelihood of creating a comfortable environment for the addiction to thrive and grow in continuous tryings to help them. Here are some signs that will help identify codependency at early stages and seek professional support timely.
Violation of Personal Boundaries
A codependent person has difficulty establishing their own personal boundaries and deciding what is right for them. They often fail to realise that their needs, thoughts, emotions and behaviours are independent of other people’s, and they fail to express it because of the fear of rejection.
This leads to a lack of self-esteem, low self-confidence and deep feelings of shame and humiliation. Experts from Arc Project explain that when it comes to relationships with an alcoholic person, codependents may find themselves not being able to set any limits or boundaries because they fear that their partner will not understand or support them.
Feeling Responsible for the Other Person
In a relationship with a person who struggles with alcohol addiction, you might constantly feel guilty and responsible for the addiction. This happens because you try to protect your partner from the outside world and all its consequences. Often, this leads to sacrificing your own needs, responsibilities and opportunities for their sake.
Not Being Yourself
It is impossible to have a healthy relationship if you cannot be yourself. Codependents cannot follow through on their wishes, desires, dreams, thoughts or beliefs in the relationship because they are too dependent on the other person’s acceptance and approval. In such situations, codependents do not even stand up for themselves when they should.
Being Afraid of Ending the Relationship
Codependents often stay in an unhealthy relationship because they are afraid of change or ending it altogether. They are so dependent on the other person that they fear change and do not know how to handle it. They fear losing their partner’s support and love and do anything to keep them in their lives. In a relationship with an addicted person, this may lead to constant failures in the recovery process, as having a partner who is already addiction-free may be perceived as a risk to lose them.
Your Happiness Depends on Another Person’s Happiness
Codependents tend to get deeply hurt whenever a loved one is unhappy or upset with them or life in general. They tend to be very emotional and need constant reassurance that they are loved, needed and appreciated by a significant other. Also, they feel happy when someone around them is happy or satisfied no matter what brings this happiness about.
Experiencing Overwhelming Anxiety
If you feel anxious when you are alone, you might be suffering from codependency issues and anxiety symptoms. Codependents seek constant approval from others to feel good about themselves and validate their existence. So when they are left alone, they become anxious due to their deep-rooted fear of abandonment (usually stems from childhood) and fear that they are not good enough on their own.
Codependents also experience anxiety when they are with other people because they start comparing themselves to them (which negatively affects their self-esteem) or constantly seek approval from others (which is exhausting). Others may also try to control and manipulate them, making codependents feel even more anxious and stressed out.
Always Trying To Fix Someone Else
Codependents often get deeply hurt when they see someone else in pain and try to fix their pain by trying to solve their problems and take care of their responsibilities. Sometimes, this leads to codependents attempting to rescue other people from their lives and decisions that they have made themselves.
They often believe that the best way to protect someone from pain is by taking it on themselves (usually because they cannot accept that it is not their fault in some way). Such behaviour only leads to the development of an insecure attachment style and a lot of resentment in the relationship, which can only hurt the relationship even more and does not facilitate the recovery process.
Focusing More on Another Person’s Needs Rather Than Yours
In relationships with an alcoholic person, it is common for codependents to focus on meeting others’ needs rather than looking at their own needs or feelings. They might overlook their physical needs, emotions, finances, social needs, etc. Also, codependents do not look at their spiritual needs in relationships either (such as choosing a life partner who fits their values). All these lead to a sense of emptiness which codependents seek to fill with helping others instead of taking care of themselves.
Codependency cannot be a part of a healthy relationship, as no matter how well-intentioned a codependent person’s actions are, they are more likely to harm, first of all, themselves and their partner than actually help them. Codependent people are usually driven by fear of losing someone, which frequently leads to not allowing other people to grow and destroying personal boundaries on both sides.
In a relationship with an addicted person, it is crucial to be able to timely determine when your willingness to support and help your partner starts turning into the urge to control their lives and make decisions for them. Not taking responsibility for other people’s problems and allowing them to deal with them on their own has more chances to help them than trying to fix them.
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